Jeff Raikes speaking at a table with others.

Jeff Raikes, chair of the Board of Trustees, speaking at a Board meeting earlier this year. Diversity and inclusion were among the topics the Board discussed at this week’s meeting, Raikes said. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

At its meeting held Dec. 3 and 4, Stanford’s Board of Trustees heard presentations focused on the university’s efforts to advance diversity and inclusion, took action on building projects and visited the School of Engineering. The trustees also heard from faculty members working on emerging research initiatives for a digital future.

In other business, the trustees announced an updated investment responsibility framework consisting of four components: a new education and research initiative around issues of responsible and sustainable investing, a new document outlining how ethical considerations are factored into investment decisions, an updated Statement on Investment Responsibility and updated procedures for considering investment responsibility requests.

The board also approved tuition for the 2019-20 academic year and reaffirmed its commitment to a strong financial aid program that meets the full demonstrated financial need of every undergraduate who qualifies for aid, including a new enhancement for middle-income families.

Diversity and inclusion

Provost Persis Drell briefed the board on the IDEAL initiative, which she is leading as part of the long-range vision. IDEAL – Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in a Learning Community – is one of the presidential initiatives that is focused on the university’s mission and values.

Board Chair Jeffrey Raikes, summarizing the discussions at the meeting, emphasized Drell’s point that IDEAL was not about “glossy brochures” or “checking boxes,” rather it’s about bringing about change in the institution.

“Diversity and inclusion are foundational to all of our programs – education, research, our community life – and this effort aims to further advance what we are doing in substantive ways,” said Raikes.

The IDEAL team’s efforts are now focused on surveying what the university currently does across campus and where there might be gaps, he said. Following this review process, the team will develop a focused scope of activity to define the next steps that need to be taken.

“Persis was optimistic about our ability to make progress, but in particular I appreciated that she was very clear that making progress is essential to the future of this university,” Raikes said. “Over the coming years, she said the best people will go to the institutions that get this right.”

The trustees also heard a presentation by Professor of Psychology Jennifer Eberhardt on her research on implicit bias.

Raikes said that Eberhardt’s research shows that, while we may think that racial bias is rare, it can affect us more than we think, and we can act on it unintentionally. In her presentation, Eberhardt demonstrated how racial bias affects everything from the criminal justice system to housing and public schools.

“Uniformly the Board of Trustees believes that this is a critical set of issues for our country, and it’s clear that Jennifer and her colleagues are making a major contribution to the scholarship and to the national discussion,” said Raikes.

Building projects

Trustees gave design and construction approval for the new district work centers that will be operated by the Land, Buildings and Real Estate (LBRE) division. In October, the board gave concept and site approval for these centers.

Currently, LBRE houses mechanical, electrical, plumbing and grounds technicians out of a central dispatch area at Bonair Siding, said Raikes. This project would create a district maintenance model that would house technicians in four centralized locations. This new approach would allow personnel to respond to service calls more quickly and efficiently with the added benefit of reducing vehicular trips around the campus.

The three centers will be located on Campus Drive near Roth Garage, Memorial Way behind Frost Amphitheater and Panama Street adjacent to the Panama electrical substation. The fourth location will be in renovated space inside the Stanford Bookstore.

The district work centers are expected to be completed in fall 2019.

The board also provided construction approval for the new Public Safety Building. The current aging facility, located on the east side of the campus, will be replaced by a facility in an area being redeveloped along Bonair Siding.

Raikes said that the project will provide a much-improved home base for vital public safety functions. He expects that the project will be complete in summer 2020.

In addition, the board gave concept and site approval for the third phase of the off-campus Stanford Auxiliary Library 3 in Livermore.

Managed by Stanford University Libraries, this facility provides environmentally controlled storage for overflow collections from across the Stanford libraries. Raikes said that students and scholars on campus can request materials from it for campus delivery.

Phase one was completed in 2003; phase two in 2013. This phase would add about 40,000 square feet of space to the existing 75,000 square feet. The project will come back to the board later for design and construction approval.

School of Engineering

On Monday afternoon, the trustees visited the School of Engineering. Dean Jennifer Widom gave the board an overview of the school, outlining some of its strengths, which include excellent faculty and students, a collaborative culture and a breadth of research from fundamental to applied.

Raikes noted that the school has done a great deal of thoughtful strategic planning and is looking ahead at challenges and opportunities. According to Widom, some of these include developing opportunities to do more to solve global problems, continuing to improve diversity and inclusion, improving student advising and faculty contact and addressing housing and the cost of living in the region.

Initiatives for a digital future

As part of Stanford’s long-range planning effort, design teams are currently developing research initiatives in a number of areas. The trustees heard from faculty members working on two initiatives in the area of Shaping the Digital Future: Data Science and Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.

“Stanford has a great opportunity to lead. The fact that we are widely recognized as a top-notch school in engineering, in computer science, in technology but at the same time a top-notch liberal arts institution, makes us better positioned than any other institution in thinking through the human-centered aspects of AI and data science,” said Raikes.

Large and complex data sets are now essential to research, he said. The Data Science team is working on how to better integrate data science research and methods into the fabric of the university to advance all fields of research.

In considering the implications of artificial intelligence, Raikes said, “The world of AI is developing very rapidly, but it needs to be human-centered  –  it needs to enhance our humanity, not replace it. Stanford can play an important role in guiding the future of AI in our world, and to do that in a very interdisciplinary way.”

Raikes noted that these two initiatives are further along in their development and the board is looking forward to delving deeper into other long-range planning initiatives later in the academic year.

Dinner with Faculty Senate

The trustees also enjoyed dinner with members of the Faculty Senate. Raikes described it as a great opportunity for trustees to spend time with faculty, hear about their concerns and express appreciation for their leadership. He noted that the senate plays a central role in the governance of the institution and that faculty are responsible for Stanford’s world-class academic standing.